Corey and Lori's Quest Log

Corey and Lori’s Quest Log

A Time for Change

This is a momentous time. The United States has just elected Barack Obama as our next President. The obvious “change” there is that we elected a black man, but that’s a side note. More important to me is that we have chosen a highly intelligent, very well educated thinking person as President; but that’s secondary too. The real change is a commitment to change, the realization that we can’t just keep on doing things the way we’ve done them for centuries. And it’s a statement that we need to be open to change within ourselves to prosper and succeed.

Here’s a quote from Mr. Obama’s nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last August:
“I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington. But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me; it’s about you.”

It’s about us. For the last eight years, American politics has been about “them”. It’s been about reacting to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. It’s been about reacting to the fear of possible “weapons of mass destruction” and a despotic regime in Iraq. It’s about counting on our government to protect us from the outside world and keep us safe. But it hasn’t been about protecting our quality of life, or about individuals taking responsibility to improve their own lives or to make the world a better place.

Well, now it’s about us. It is a time for change, but the change must come from within each of us. It is a time to take individual action, a time for hard work, and a time for Heroes.

A Book for Heroes

John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Barack Obama said something similar Tuesday night, “I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.” It may be uncomfortable in a nation of luxury and entitlement, but we all have to help to make change happen. The nice thing is, as we work to help the world, we grow stronger as individuals.

ChangeWhat do we mean by that? We recently read a book that is changing our lives – and it might change yours – in very positive ways. The book is “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Carol S. Dweck, PhD. Ms. Dweck is a Professor of psychology at Stanford University and a researcher “in the fields of personality, social psychology, and developmental psychology.”

At its heart, Mindset is a very straightforward, single-topic book about the advantages of having a “growth mindset.” The author defines a “fixed mindset” as a belief that what you are is what you will be. You’re athletic or not. You’re smart or dumb. You’re good at art or have no talent. A “growth mindset” is the belief that you can learn and improve any area of your life – If you suck at calculus or basketball or playing the piano, that just means you need to work harder at learning and getting better at it. People who have a “growth mindset” – and apply it to how they live their lives – are much more successful and effective in every area of life than those who have a “fixed mindset.” It’s a simple idea, and I had heard it before, but an incredibly powerful one.

If Mindset is a one-idea book, why do we think you should all read it? It has to do with… mindset. The fixed mindset is all about taking the easy way out. The previous paragraph gave you the “easy way” version of mindset. You didn’t have to work for it; it got handed to you. One of the things we learned from Mindset is that learning doesn’t work that way. We grow by making a commitment to growth, accepting that we can do very difficult and challenging things, then working towards them step by step. When we’ve been exposed too much to the fixed mindset, it’s easy to see work as a negative thing. If we were truly smart, we wouldn’t have to work to learn something new or to accomplish something important. That mindset can work great when we’re being successful, but it has no coping strategy for challenges or failures.

Mindset contains dozens of examples of people with fixed and growth mindsets, and of studies that demonstrate how much more effective people who apply the growth mindset are. Some of those examples are absolutely astonishing! How about the teacher in Chicago who gets all the “failed” troublemaking kids and refuses to treat them as losers? By the end of the year, every student is reading well. By the time they’re in 5th or 6th grade, they’re reading Chekhov, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Socrates – and loving it. They get there step by step and by not having the option to quit when things get tough.

How about the idea of encouraging children by avoiding criticism and telling them how smart they are? That’s great, right? According to multiple research studies cited by Dweck, it’s a disaster! Children – and adults – learn by our mistakes and by being challenged. Children who did well on a test and were told they were really smart saw no reason to study. When they later did poorly on a harder test, they were devasted – “If doing well means I’m smart, then failing means I’m stupid.” They had no coping method and no tools for growth.

Children who were given the same series of tests, but were told, “You must have worked really hard to do so well on that test,” had a totally different experience. They too had trouble on the harder test, but they interpreted their failure differently – “I did poorly on that test, so I’ll have to work harder so I can do better next time.” With that simple change in mindset, these children continued to learn and did much better on the retest.

We Hope You’ll Change Your Mind

Now, you might not think that applies to you. Readers of this blog are probably really intelligent, well-educated people. There’s a good chance you read challenging works of literature, philosophy, or science. Well, if that’s the case, you could be in even greater danger! Thinking you’re smart by genetics or education makes it easy to think, “I’m brilliant because I succeeded at something. The moment I fail, I’ll stop being brilliant. It’s safer not to try at all.” You need to reinterpret yourself and take the attitude that, “I did great work on that project!” instead. That way you will reinforce the growth mindset and continue to work, learn, take risks, and grow. That’s why we think you should read Mindset, really thinking about the ideas and examples in it, and work to apply them in your own life.

I (Corey) remember a conversation, early in my career as a programmer. Someone asked me why I was willing to work long, crazy hours. I said, “Work is all about learning. I learn something new every day. If I ever stop learning new things at a job, it’s time to move on.” I used to get really embarrassed when someone said to me, “You must be really smart” or “You’re a genius!” because I felt I was just having fun learning new things. Unfortunately, somewhere in there I think I started believing the compliments and maybe forgot a little about how much real work it takes to create great software.

What do you do when you’ve been on the top of the world, a success, a star? Especially what do you do when you then have a couple of projects that are canceled, or that simply fail? What happens next depends on your mindset. If you believe that “success = brilliance,” then clearly “failure = stupidity.” Guess what, you’re now a has-been. You don’t dare start any new projects or take any big risks because they might not succeed and gasp! you might discover that you were a one-hit wonder. There, safe, whew!

What I learned from Ms. Dweck’s book is that being “safe” is the real failure. Every great accomplishment comes from incredibly hard work and the flexibility to keep learning and growing while you’re working at it. If you lose the growth mindset, you lose everything. Mindset came to me as a badly-needed kick in the ass.

That doesn’t mean I won’t screw up. It’s very easy to slide back into laziness. Even when you do everything exactly right, failure is always a possibility. But with the growth mindset, failure is just the start of a new opportunity. It’s a lesson and a chance to grow. Learning isn’t comfortable… but it’s fun. Hard work can be stressful… but it’s a lot less stressful than knowing you aren’t accomplishing anything. “Meaning” can be hard to come by, but it’s really rewarding when you find it and work for it.

A School for Change

By the way, The School for Heroes isn’t a “fixed” place either. It’s a living, growing site that will constantly be changing and adding new features. Within the next few weeks we’ll let you edit your personal page (you can already add a personal statement), view a roster of the students in each class, get to your Heroic assignments, let your friends know about your hero class and how to take the test, and much more. Soon we’ll have a forum where you can talk to other heroes-in-progress and discuss your work, plans, and ideas.

Of course, Lori and I have a lot of work to get all that done. We’re eagerly taking on the challenge and watching our hard work slowly turn into a real school for – and of – heroes. We hope you’ll all stay with us and take the missing features as challenges and growth opportunities. From a fixed mindset, every missing feature is a failure – The school obviously needs all those things. From the growth mindset, each one is an exciting opportunity for growth and change. The School for Heroes will never be a static site and you are all essential to helping it grow and become what it promises to be.

Read Mindset, please. Its message is both powerful and important. We live in a momentous time, a time for change, a time for heroes. Can we really make a difference – in ourselves and in the world around us? To quote our new President-Elect, “Yes, we can!”

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  1. Lori Says:

    Joshua: It’s great to know that we have made such an impact upon your life. Quest for Glory was designed to immerse the player in a troubled game world and feel as it the player was truly a hero. The decisions you made affected the entire game series. From the very first game of the series, we wanted to empower the player to be a hero. It was never just about making a game – it was about making a difference to the player.

    We’ve made mistakes along the way of the series, but at least we got that part right.

  2. Lori Says:

    I’m not a fan of Politics. I believe in Heroes who don’t compromise their values and ethics in the name of votes or kickbacks. Just a quirk of mine, I supposed.

    Corey and I knew the subject matter of this blog for a couple of weeks after we discovered the “Mindset” book in our library/bedroom and realized how important that book’s message could be. (It was one our son bought so that we could read it.) It was only a coincidence that Obama happened to say things that resonated with our theme.

    Both candidates in the American Presidential Election pledged “Change” in their campaigns. It’s clear to many people that things can not continue they way they have been in the past.

    This website is devoted to encouraging everyone to embrace change in their lives and try to change the world. It’s not about politics – it’s about having strong personal beliefs about the way the world should be and making them real.

    The message is clear no matter who said it, “It is time for a change.”

  3. Marquillin Says:

    This is a good article for self empowerment pushers! This is a mind set I’ve been attempting to master for several years now, though old habits don’t seem to just keel over.

    To Anon> if Politics aren’t you’re thing (I know they make my head spin), I’m sure you don’t HAVE to put up with it, Heroics can be applied to any aspect of life, and the school has addressed a good number already. Just don’t begrudge us if we choose to discus it on this site, for it is one of the big scary monsters of our time.

    To Calvert and Matthias> Amen!

    I like a lot of the things Obama says about working together, unfortunate that I can’t trust him as a contempory, first-world politican; what I hear behind his words is the obedient unity of the “new world order”. My fear is that people are waiting to be saved from the follies of the last president(s); all this being engineered to climax with the transfer from Bush to Obama (or McCain, had he won). The problem with being saved is that we develop dependency issues, told the best way to live and all to happy for everyone to be bossed around the same. This being the aged, well practiced, fixed mindset.

    My hope is that people will take his prompt literally to do what they can with their own lives to fix their own petty evils, their own relationships and their own county/tribe, creating governments who’s actions are accountable, scrutinized and replaceable. The growth mindset.

    “I shouted out who killed the Kennedys, when after all it was you and me!” -Rolling Stones

  4. Joshua Says:

    Im not sure if you got this message previously Corey, but Hero’s Quest was the very first game I ever played as a child period. And from that point on your writings and adventures have shaped me as a human being and given me a sense of how to live my life and how to enjoy the funny puns we see in it. But most of all I really learned what a Hero is and what type of hero I am and have lived by since playing those games. I am a paladin tried and true and I don’t think I would have become this way if it wasn’t for your imagination. I thank you for that. I have every single Quest for Glory game in its original packaging and I swear to God that some day….Some DAY they will be worth millions because of what they sparked in the adventure gaming genre. If there is anything I could do to be of assistance to you and your wife I would be more than honored to do so.
    Joshua Walters Paladin Soulfourge.

  5. John W. Wells Says:

    Though I’m justifiably gleeful about Obama’s victory, I’m also chagrined that the Republicans don’t have an Obama of their own right now. It’s dangerous for anybody, even somebody I largely agree with, to have such a mandate for rapid change.

    We benefit most when there’s strong and ethical leadership on both sides. Obama will bring back fairness, human rights, the long-squandered goodwill of our allies, and give us genuine change. But who’s going to support individualism, property rights, the intimidation of our enemies, and our heritage? The Right needs heroes, too.

  6. Don Says:

    A Time for Change, INDEED! I agree with most of what you wrote. My primary goal is to do what I can to CHANGE our economy from a fossil fuel base to a renewable base. Renewable energy is a positive change for all three areas of sustainability, economic (domestic business opportunities/job growth), environmental (work with mother earth/father sky rather than harsh “drill baby drill” techniques), and social (cleaner air=better health, and reduced incentive to “secure” fossil fuel energy sources in other countries). has a well thought out, evolving plan to achieve this goal.

    Renewable Energy IS Homeland Security, and Distributed Generation IS More Secure!


  7. Matthias Says:

    When I said “further degrading our political system,” I meant economic.

  8. Matthias Says:

    Sounds like we agree politically, Corey; I consider myself Libertarian as well. However, I don’t share optimism over Obama. I’ve merely lost faith in our political system and see I only see his economic policies as further degrading our political system. It is my personal opinion that we won’t have real change until we throw out both of these bloated, corrupt political parties. Sorry, I’m rather disgruntled and frustrated with politics at the moment, and I’m a bit of a hot-head. After all, I did score as a Warrior.

  9. Calvert Says:

    Good article, if there is one thing I agree with its that America needs to change its attitude on personal responsibility. We see all these government bailouts of “failing” companies and it might be tempting to ask: “Where is our bailout?” If you think you need a bailout that probably means you think you have failed, just like the big companies who made bad decisions. Well, we should be seeing the hard times as times to grow and learn and not for holding out our hand til the government puts something in it.

    We need to teach our kids (and ourselves) that failure is an option, (they don’t need a participation trophy for getting seventh out of eight) and that failure is not a bad thing if it inspires us to do better next time. Giving up is when we have truly failed

    I want to live in an America where people don’t sue others for the tiniest mistakes (or spilled coffee) where people take responsibility for their silly and sometimes stupid mistakes and work to make things better. In an America where we don’t expect our government to save us from our own bad decisions and instead people realize that if we want our situation improved we have to change our mindset, then go out there work hard and improve it!

  10. Corey Says:

    Thank you for commenting.

    No, you do not have to be a political liberal to be a Hero.

    The article starts off with Obama because we listened to his acceptance speech and found that it echoed many of the concepts of Mindset. Since I had already decided this week’s blog would be a review of Mindset, and Obama’s election is topical, it made sense to use that as a jump-off point. Last week, Halloween was the big event, so we used Halloween as our starting point; this week, it was the Presidential election… and I still would have built the article around the election if John McCain had won.

    In fact, I do not consider myself a Liberal… but I am also offended by people who consider “Liberal” to be a swear word. I am a political Libertarian – fiscally conservative and socially liberal… but I don’t expect all Heroes to be Libertarian; we come in all flavors.

    That said, I do like what Barack Obama has to say. Only time will tell whether he is able to follow through on his rhetoric, but for the time being, I considered him a clear choice. Obama/Biden campaigned with a message of specific policies; McCain/Palin campaigned on emotion. Unless I hate the policies, the former will win me over every time. Had Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination, I would have had a much more difficult decision because she also campaigned on emotional appeal rather than reasoned decision.

    Anyway, the American people have decided. Mr. Obama will be our next President. I hope we’ll all give him a chance and see if we can work together to make this a better country. It will take a lot of small individual efforts to do that, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office of the White House.

  11. Matthias Says:

    So, to be a Hero you have to be liberal-aligned politically? I’m sorry, I can’t agree with that and I personally think that Obama has pulled the wool over the eyes of America. Far be it from a politican to lie about something…

  12. Anon~ Says:

    Let me just say, I’m really disappointed that you had to pull politics onto this site. Really makes me think twice about participating. =(

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